Hello again, friends.

Hope you enjoy this one. Unlike my previous stories, this one does NOT have a completed draft. I have it all planned and outlined, however. It's going to be a long one; I just don't know how long yet. We'll get there when we get there. My updates won't be as frequent as they were for JTB; this will probably be updated every other week or so (if we're lucky and RL cooperates). The first six chapters are already finished.

I consider my attempts to use British spelling to be a failed experiment, so American spelling will be used. British diction and syntax will remain.

Comments welcome and encouraged.

Rated M for language and intense situations. Lemon free; just fill in the gaps with your imaginations.

"You think you're very clever, don't you?"

Severus Snape turned around to see Minerva McGonagall bearing down on him like she meant business, despite the fact she still relied on a cane. "Taking names" is what he called it in his head. And it had been many, many years since he'd been on the receiving end of that look.

"Of course I do, Minerva, but why should that upset you?"

"Don't play with me," she said, falling into step next to him. He slowed his pace to accommodate her; she was still recovering from the attack on her several weeks prior. "Not that I think you have anything to do with this, of course. I know you too well."

"With what?"

"You're on your way to see Albus, aren't you?"

Severus nodded.

"Then he should be the one to tell you. But don't think for a second that I'm happy about it."

"Alright…" Severus gave her a look of honest confusion. He didn't know why Albus wanted to see him. He didn't know why Albus did half the things he did. All Severus knew was that he was bound to follow it, as any good soldier would follow the orders of his commanding officer.

"This is all Dolores Umbridge's fault," Minerva was muttering to herself.

Severus stopped dead in his tracks. "She is gone though?" he asked, speaking at a more clipped pace than normal. "Right? I mean, they said she was going to be gone. Albus promised me that she wouldn't be able to get back inside the castle."

"Relax, Severus, she's gone."

Severus exhaled in relief.

By now they had reached the Headmaster's office. Speaking the password, the gargoyle leaped aside and Severus gallantly gestured for Minerva to precede him up the stairs.

"No," she said, shaking her head. "Only you. I've already spoken to him about this."

Severus nodded. He made his way up a couple of stairs before calling over his shoulder, "Drinks tonight?"

"You're buying," Minerva replied. "You'll be able to afford it after today."

"Ah, Severus, do come in," Albus said. Though his tone and demeanor were as pleasant as always, Severus could see some sadness in the old man's eyes.

"Albus," Severus replied in greeting.

"Severus, you remember Reinhold Hamilton, Chairman of the Board of Governors," Albus said, gesturing to an elderly wizard with long grey hair plaited down his back and large, circular glasses.

"Mr. Hamilton," Severus said, shaking the man's hand.

"Please be seated," Hamilton said, seating himself at Albus's desk and gesturing for Severus to sit across from him. Albus took the seat to Severus's right. "As you know, Severus, these are difficult times, difficult times, indeed. Extraordinary times, particularly for Hogwarts. What with the new threats our world faces, we must ensure that Hogwarts is protected. Additionally, the Board has decided, in light of the recent mishaps in the past year, to take a long, hard look at the operations of Hogwarts and determine what staffing changes, if any, should be made in order to best serve the Wizarding population. I think you will agree that complacency in the face of a changing world is a dangerous idea.

Severus nodded, his expression inscrutable. So, it had come at last. He was being sacked. Minerva had been, too, judging by her anger earlier. His past had caught up with him at last, or perhaps he had given a student with the "right" parents one detention too many.

Hamilton continued speaking. "The past several years, as you have no doubt noticed, have seen a significant upturn in student injuries and illnesses, beyond that which we would consider typical in a school with the enrollment and curriculum of Hogwarts. Taken as a sum of its parts, you can see why the Board is concerned about the management of the school. " Hamilton looked at the parchment in his hands and began to read from the list, which appeared to be compiled in no particular order.

"Students Petrified by a roving Basilisk unseen by any staff. A Cerebrus guarding a door on the third floor, perfectly accessible to students. Lower-level students being given Time-Turners to use at their own discretion. Hippogriff attacks. Students being tortured with Blood Quills and threatened with the Cruciatus. Failing to ensure that the werewolf on staff was properly quarantined and medicated during his transformations, putting several students at risk. Children as young as fourth years learning about the Unforgivables. An appalling lack of security around known secret passages in and out of the castle. A failure to conduct even the most basic background checks for potential staff, which resulted in two Death Eater sympathizers being hired on staff in the past five years alone, and another was a complete fraud with regard to his qualifications. Not to mention the Headmaster's failure to notice an imposter living in the school for an entire year. And this does not even begin to touch on the problems we saw with the TriWizard Tournament."

As Hamilton spoke, Severus couldn't help but notice Albus's face turning more and more ashamed.

"We simply cannot have our premiere educational institution beset with such problems, Severus," Hamilton continued. "Parents are threatening to withdraw their students and send them abroad. Others are proposing starting their own school, one in which boarding is optional. We do not want to see the proud tradition of Hogwarts tarnished by the mismanagement of a single person."

Severus nodded, wondering why he was being treated to the history lesson before receiving his inevitable termination. It wasn't as if he hadn't noticed many of the same problems during his own tenure.

"While the Ministry has accepted its culpability in many of the problems faced in the past year, including and especially the pain and disruption inflicted by the former High Inquisitor, Minister Scrimgeour also has expressed his concerns about what appears to be systemic negligence in terms of student health and safety. The Board of Governors has agreed, and has made the decision to remove Albus Dumbledore as Headmaster of Hogwarts."

Severus's head snapped to his right, seeing Albus with the sad look upon his face.

"Wanting to keep the transition as orderly as possible, the Board has decided to review the performance records of the current Heads of House for possible replacement before interviewing or screening any outside candidates. After a thorough review of your record here, Severus, the Board has decided that, despite some reservations, you are the member of staff best equipped to assume the position of Headmaster, effective thirty days hence."

Severus's head snapped back to look at Hamilton. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. His mind raced. Minerva was the Deputy Headmistress, why was she not offered the position? This explained her little tantrum earlier; he had leapfrogged her to assume the position she had been groomed for ever since he was born. Why not Filius? He had higher seniority over Severus. Pomona, despite the fact that she was older, had been hired two years after Severus, so it made sense that he would be considered first.

As if he could hear Severus's racing thoughts, Hamilton spoke again. "The Board's lack of confidence in Albus extends to that of Professor McGonagall as well. Our review has found that she too failed to bring to the attention of the Board incidents that were occurring, and failed to stop them, thought it was in her power to do so. Professor Flitwick… well, we find he fails to command respect and attention over his own classes, let alone that of the entire school. We need someone with a forceful personality, excellent credentials, a long history of service, and the desired leadership skills. Despite our reservations about your treatment of students, we have found that you never once compromised the safety or well-being of any of them. Even Ms. Umbridge, in her review, commended you for ensuring that the volatile environment of a potions classroom was kept safe at all times. The Board also wishes to commend you for protecting three students, including Harry Potter, from a fully transformed werewolf. Your commitment to student safety, Severus, is what has brought you to the Board's attention. We expect this to continue upon your appointment." Hamilton stood up. "Do you accept?"

Severus looked from Albus to Hamilton to Albus again.

"Professor Dumbledore quite agrees with your appointment," Hamilton said. Albus gave a smile and a nod, winking one twinkling eye. Severus didn't know how he could be so calm about it. There were things that needed to be discussed. Lots of things. Not all of them to do with the administration of the school, either. His position in… other areas… may be compromised with Albus gone.

Severus gulped. "Very well," he said.

"Excellent," Hamilton said, offering his hand. "Congratulations, Headmaster Snape."

We are through the looking glass, people.

Catch you on the flip side.